We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

I don’t want to take anything away from the Ukrainians, who have basically been a banner case of military transformation, but it also helps that the Russians are really, really bad at the whole “war that involves more than bombing hospitals” thing.

Adot Crawley

The woke won’t let your meaning self-identify

“his attack on Western values including references to transitioning children and other hot-button topics in the West (including family values which may have included an indirect swipe at the new Italian PM) was IMO a touch of brilliance that reflects the old Vladimir rather than the current. I expect to see any attempt to go after such efforts in the West now resulting in accusations of being a Russian stooge/proxy/agent/etc. Yet more Gramscian damage to the West. Well played.” (from Laughing Wolf’s latest)

Although I largely agree, I have three points to make about Laughing Wolf’s phrasing here.

1) Either Putin has rebuked the Russian handler of the first transgender US army officer traitor and returned the information, or I think the sincerity of his opposition to weird wokeness in the west should be questioned. (But I predict the western activists accusing the unwoke of being his stooges won’t question it, so it may have some effect.)

2) Putin’s not such a genius for coming up with this idea. The Clinton campaign floated this story in 2016, and the idea that Trump is a Russian asset and his followers either traitors or dupes was insolently rerun by the Times and others this February and laughably fallen for by this pundit and others in March. So I think a degree of it was happening anyway and would have continued to happen. Putin’s remarks may not add much fresh fuel to that already-burning bonfire on the ice.

3) However, seeing what the usual suspects pretend Trump meant by Vlad’s “genius move” (and how many of the usual dupes swallowed it or pretended to) maybe Laughing Wolf should be more cautious about saying things like “a touch of brilliance that reflects the old Vladimir … Yet more Gramscian damage to the West.”, lest he suffer some ‘Gramscian’ damage himself. 🙂

Also from Laughing Wolf:

For all that the US was the focus of his bitching, Great Britain comes in for a lot of oblique criticism too. In fact, it might could be argued that more was directed at them than most may realize — it depends on how well one knows Russian history and Russian culture.

Nice to know we’re appreciated.

A week after Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng went full “Reagan” in the House of Commons

“The point is that Britain was in an economic mess before Ms. Truss took office, and there is no alternative universe in which policies that have failed for 12 years suddenly would start working on the cusp of a global downturn. The choice is the gamble of a major policy overhaul, or the certainty of steeper decline. So yes, U.S. Republicans, do take note of Ms. Truss’s travails in Britain. The Tories squandered their reputation for competent, free-market economic management. They now find that it’s hard to win back at precisely the moment they and the country need it most.”

The Wall Street Journal (I seem to be quoting it a lot these days), giving its transatlantic take on the past 12 years of Conservative fecklessness and some occasional sensible moves. Its verdict on the Bank of England is particularly damning:

The Osborne Treasury and the Bank of England under Governors Mervyn King and Mark Carney set the tone by “looking through” above-target inflation for four years from 2010-13, and again in 2017-19. The central bank ignored its price-stability mandate in order to hold interest rates at historic lows while suppressing government borrowing costs with quantitative easing.

This stoked asset-price inflation, especially in housing, while suppressing productive investment and real wages. Inflation-adjusted pay fell 6.7% from 2009-14.

Mr. Carney’s successor Andrew Bailey poured on generous monetary stimulus during the pandemic, and he has been slow to withdraw it as the inflationary crisis deepens. One day before Mr. Kwarteng’s tax announcement, Mr. Bailey gave markets a bad surprise with a dovish 50-basis-point increase in interest rates rather than a 75-point raise that would follow the Federal Reserve’s lead and match the severity of U.K. inflation.

No wonder markets were primed to question Britain’s policy credibility when Mr. Kwarteng unveiled the new tax plan.

On the bright side, at least we hopefully won’t hear much more about Modern Monetary Theory.

Addendum: I have ordered Edward Chancellor’s book, The Price of Time, and will review it when I get my copy. It is getting good reviews. We shall see!

Sterling is recovering a bit against the dollar. I wonder if some hedge fund types that have shorted the pound have been squeezed out.

Update: In response to bad polls and the fact that many Tory MPs are more or less social democrats with a blue label, the Chancellor has reversed his removal of the 45% top tax rate. So, combined with national insurance and other taxes, top earners face a marginal rate around 60 per cent, which is high even by European standards. Needless to say, this is unlikely to help the party retain power unless there is a dramatic improvement in the economy. And even if there is, the “it’s time for a change” will be hard to resist. Labour can get rid of its nuttier members and get into power.

Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, Liz

“Labour surges to 33-point lead over Tories”, reports the Times.

Labour has surged to a 33-point poll lead over the Conservatives after a week of market turmoil triggered by Liz Truss’s tax-cutting budget.

The YouGov poll for The Times finds Tory support has fallen by seven points in the past four days amid fears the government’s plans will lead to spiralling interest rate rises.

It is thought to be the largest poll lead enjoyed by any party with any pollster since the late 1990s.

Labour’s lead is fuelled by voters switching directly from the Conservatives, with 17 per cent of those who backed Boris Johnson in 2019 saying they would vote Labour.

Just 37 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters said they were planning to stick with the party, suggesting a Tory wipeout.

Liz Truss now faces a choice. She can pull back. This might regain her a percentage point or two. She would then be 31 points behind instead of 33. Her place in history would be secure: as an answer to a difficult pub quiz question about who was Prime Minister between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer. Or she can push onwards. She might still fail, but more gloriously. And if she succeeds, she gets to sit alongside Margaret Thatcher in the Told You So Hall of Fame. Even if, as seems likely, she loses the next election but hands Sir Keir an economy in significantly better shape, she will be remembered as someone who put country before party.

Tax cut freak out

We have about the highest level of taxation we have had in the UK since the 1970s. In the 2021-2022 tax year tax receipts were 30.3% of GDP. In 2009-2010 they were 25% of GDP which was the lowest level in the last 20 years and occurred under a Labour government.

The recently proposed tax changes are: cancel an increase in corporation tax; reverse a recent (unpopular with the left) 1.25% increase in national insurance contributions; cut basic rate of income tax by 1%; change stamp duty nil band from 125,000 to 250,000 (the average house price is 281,000); remove the 45% additional rate of income tax (paid by 629,000 people earning more than £150,000, to the tune of about £1.5bn (thanks to KJP for the correction)).

Such changes are welcome to me, but do not appear to be particularly radical.

And yet everyone, from the IMF to forex traders to buyers of government bonds to Torygraph columnists, not to mention literally everyone on Twitter, is completely freaking out about it.

Most commentators seem to be aghast at the very concept of tax cuts. Few commentators are talking about spending. Are these tax cuts really so big and costly, or is it that nobody believes that a smaller state can lead to economic growth, instead believing that government tax and spending is a zero sum game, and that anything other than a steady increase in tax and spending is terrifying?

Samizdata quote of the day

“The unemployment rate was 3.5% in July, the same as in February 2020, but the U.S. has three million fewer workers. Where did everyone go? This in an economy with 11.2 million job openings. It’s mostly men 25 to 54 who haven’t come back to work. Now a McKinsey study suggests that 40% of workers are thinking of quitting their jobs. Does anyone want to work anymore?”

Andy Kessler, Wall Street Journal ($).

Discussion point: what do you think of the apparent sabotage of Nord Stream 1 and 2?

On February 7th, Joe Biden said, “If Russia invades…then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

Today the Guardian reports: “Fears of sabotage as gas pours into Baltic from Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines”

Was it sabotage? If so, who did it and was it a good thing to do?

Samizdata quote of the day

The alternative to the cornering and humiliation of Russia would be for the United States and its allies to halt or reduce their aid to Ukraine and impose a stalemate. But that would mean delivering a victory to Russia, because it would still hold more Ukrainian territory than it did in 2014 and would have gone unpunished for pervasive war crimes, including mass murder. In three or four years, a rearmed Russia, thirsting for revenge for the losses and defeats it has suffered, would do the same thing again, and against a dispirited Ukraine. If that were to happen, it would be an utter disaster for American policy and Western security. Such an imposed stalemate would be profoundly immoral, but equally to the point, it would be profoundly stupid.

So this is indeed a dangerous moment, because Putin will inevitably find himself humiliated and cornered and may very well look for a way to lash out. But as General James Wolfe said before storming the heights of Quebec in 1759, war is an option of difficulties. The error lies in thinking that one can titrate the application of violence to achieve exquisitely precise results. To the extent that the West continues to attempt to do so, it will merely ensure more mass graves like those of Bucha and Izyum, and more soldiers lying limbless or in the burn wards of Ukrainian military hospitals. So now, as ever, Churchill’s observation that courage is the virtue that makes all others possible holds, particularly for the leaders of the embattled West. Zelensky could not put it better himself.

Eliot Cohen

She isn’t f*****ing about

My Grandmother used to have a word. It began with “F” but it’s not that “F” word or even the slightly less bad Irish “F” word as popularised by Father Ted. It’s another “F” word but you will search your dictionary in vain to find it. It’s not in mine. In fact, I am far from sure it has ever been written down. If it were written down it would be something like “footer” with the “foo” pronounced like the “Foo” in Foo Fighters not the “foo” in foot. Well, I say that but that’s only about as close as an Englishmen can get. Monaghan pronunciation is not something that I would advise the typical Englishmen, Scotsman or, indeed, Irishman to attempt. Worse still for any cultural appropriators out there, “footer” almost never came without being preceded with another word. The word means “old” but it is pronounced like “aisle” but we can’t use “aisle” because people in Monaghan take their religion seriously. “Isle” also looks silly so I am going to go for “ail”. Anyway, it turned out that a lot of acquaintances of my grandmother turned out to be “ail footers”. In fact, at times it seemed – if my grandmother was anything to go by – that 90% of the population of Monaghan could be so categorized.

However, it turns out that “footer” is not just a noun but a verb. I say that but I’ve only heard that from the lips of one person – not my grandmother – a resident of Armagh who couldn’t pronounce the word but did at least understand it. So, it’s not in common use. But I can’t think of a better word in light of the mini-Budget announced on Friday. Whatever Liz Truss may be or may do she is not a “footer” and she is not “footering about”.

For Liz Truss to not be a “footer” is an achievement in itself. The last 12 years of Conservative or mainly Conservative rule has been government of Footers, by Footers, for Footers. Liz Truss herself has spent the last ten years as a Cabinet minister. That means 10 years defending policy most of which she must have thought was nonsense. How do you do that without the steady erosion of your sense of right and wrong? How do you do that without losing all sense of urgency? Anyway, she has and the speed at which non-footerish announcements on taxes, regulations, energy and Ukraine are coming out of government is astonishing. I have been burnt so many times by politicians that I have become reluctant to give them my whole-hearted support. I am not yet ready to do that in the case of Liz Truss but this is an extremely promising start.

There is little about Liz Truss’s appearance or demeanour to suggest (to me at least) a Thatcher-like determination. From Heaver News.

Samizdata quote of the day

I know enough gay people – progs, conservatives, libertarians even – to know that most of them wanted to be accepted and unashamed and then ignored (as if they were just . . . normal!) and are now looking on in horror as “their” movement gets co-opted and taken over by people with huge latex breasts with protruding nipples claiming the right to teach in high schools while dressed that way. That’s not what they wanted, and we made it possible by forcing them to construct a movement when we wouldn’t accept them living quietly amongst us. It was the existence of that ready-built movement that the latex breast people could take over that made all of this fun possible.

I can almost feel Andrew Sullivan’s pain when he says we should remove the “G” and maybe the “L” from the new LGBT movement.

Bobby B

Don’t give up the day job. Try doing it instead.

Here is a confession: I wrote most of this post on January 17th, the day I read the Times article that I quote. Then something distracted me and I put it aside to finish later. It is now “later”, as in “250 days later”, and, having been reminded of the onrushing apocalypse by the reaction to Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget, I have finished it up and present it to you now.

*

How’s your science fiction novel getting along? Oh. Sorry. Same here, I must admit.

Maybe we would be doing better if the government were paying us to write the stuff?

“Met Office forecasts a Britain of militia war, bartering and child labour”, the Times reports:

It is 2070 and Britain as we once knew it has vanished. The government has collapsed, the police and justice system no longer exists. Militias control feudal microstates within the UK, with people accepting severe restrictions on freedom in exchange for work and protection.

This is not the beginning of a sci-fi film but a report commissioned by the Met Office into how the UK might evolve over the next century.

The “Met Office” is the Meteorological Office, the UK’s national weather forecasting service.

The weather service is behind a “ground-breaking project” to explore five different paths the nation could take up to 2100, and show how it will be easier to mitigate and adapt to climate change in some versions of the future than others.

In one scenario, researchers explore what would happen if international tensions caused the UK to increase border controls and increase military spending. Political and social tensions would initially be spearheaded by “nationalistic public attitudes” that would support populist leaders who drive a breakdown in international relations. A lack of foreign trade would push the government to lift environmental regulations to focus economic growth on domestic manufacturing and intensive farming. Food safety and animal welfare standards would also be lowered.

By 2040, in this scenario, the four UK nations have become independent of one another, with strict border controls leading to the countries making use of their own resources. By the 2050s, the railway system, the NHS and universities will have collapsed, while “child labour re-emerges in connection to a widespread return to subsistence farming and bartering systems”. By the 2070s, the government has collapsed and militias enforce laws in microstates, while controlling resources and an illegal arms trade.

The scenario is one of five different outlooks called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, a UK-version of a framework used by international climate scientists and economists to examine how societies and economies might change over this century.

The Met Office report was carried out by Cambridge Econometrics, a consultancy firm, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the universities of Edinburgh and Exeter. It was funded by the Met Office and UK Research and Innovation, a government-funded body.

There are a few more pessimistic scenarios, including one in which “a rich elite has privatised the NHS and introduced military conscription to deal with criminality and social unrest” (I could go with the first half of that) and then, shining softly in the darkness like your one permitted eco-friendly lightbulb, there’s the one where…

… the UK makes a “societal shift towards more environmentally sustainable systems”, researchers believe poverty will be “eliminated”. This would also involve rejoining a “progressive and expanded EU”.

They couldn’t resist.

In this outlook, the UK will have a “fully functional circular economy” as society quickly becomes more egalitarian, “leading to healthier lifestyles, improved well-being, sustainable use of natural resources, and more stable and fair international relations”.

Decades ago the U.S. Center for Disease Control got bored of doing its day job and decided to spend its time controlling guns instead. In vain did the Republicans add a rider to the 1996 omnibus spending bill telling ’em to stick to diseases; Obama repealed it. Turned out the CDC might indeed have been better employed doing what it said on the tin.

I hate to dash the dreams of fellow aspiring science fiction writers, but I think the same advice might apply to the Meteorological Office.

Samizdata quote of the day

Heaven forbid trying increase gas supplies in a time of gas shortage. Amazing how many greens seem to have a convergence of interests with nice Mr. Putin. Funny that.

– Perry de Havilland on the opposition to fracking in UK from the usual suspects.